Dear Career Advisor,
I am a hospitality tutor for a tertiary academy in the South Island.
I have had a passion for computers since I was young, but have never pursued it as a career. I have had over 10 years' experience in the industry and now wish to shift careers into the computer field. This may or may not be appropriate, but where does one start?
I have read all of the articles presented in Computerworld's "What Am I Worth" columns, and I am interested in how many of these individuals started their careers.
New boy on the block
Lachlan Sloan of Protocol Personnel replies: Shifting careers can often be difficult but it is possible. However, be prepared to accept a few knock-backs.
Somehow you need to qualify your computer or IT knowledge into something tangible that employers within the IT industry can identify with. There are plenty of courses out there that will help you to do that [see IT and Business Courses], some are short term (several weeks), some are long term (several months or even years). A lot of the re-education process comes down to how much time and money you can afford to spend in training.
If you are interested in the technical side of things, eg programming or engineering, it will be essential that you get some formalised qualifications. If you are more interested in the sales and marketing side then qualifications aren't so important, but they will definitely open more doors.
Usually a graduate with a degree or technical certification can expect to earn $30K-$35K in their first year. It takes time to earn big dollars so don't get impatient or buy too much into the "myth" that everyone in IT earns huge money. If you are exceptional at what you do the opportunities will come to progress your career and earn a good income.
Since you already have work experience you may be able to find work that enables you to utilise your current skills and some of your new IT skills, however this is completely dependent on your chosen path in IT.
The basic steps are:
- You need to decide what you want to do.
- Get some vocational training - well-known industry qualifications.
- Using your current work history, try finding jobs where your future employer can utilise both your current skills and your new IT skills.
- Get experience even if it is at minimal returns financially.
- Don't give up.
Really, there is no one way of approaching these companies other than to simply go out and meet with them. Calling them on the phone makes it too easy for them to brush you off so I would advise going in and trying to make an appointment (this is important) to present your idea and to drop in a copy of your CV.
Smaller IT companies who are cost-conscious may be very interested; you may be surprised.
Also it would be worth your time forwarding your information to maybe three or four recruiters for reference. You may be surprised as they often have entry-level roles come available.
Readers with career questions can have them answered in this column by IT recruitment specialists. Send questions via Computerworld journalist, Darren Greenwood, with "Dear Adviser" in the subject line.